VATICAN (CNS): Saints are people who recognised their need of God’s help, who took risks to discover his will, to help others and who nurtured a habit of thanksgiving, Pope Francis said in his homily on October 13 after formally declaring five new saints for the Catholic Church.
“The culmination of the journey of faith is to live a life of continual thanksgiving. Let us ask ourselves: Do we, as people of faith, live each day as a burden, or as an act of praise?” the pope asked.
Those canonised at the Mass included St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, the British theologian and poet who died in 1890; St. Maria Rita Lopes Pontes of Brazil, popularly known as Sister Dulce, who died in 1992; St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan of India, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family, who died in 1926; layperson and mystic, St. Marguerite Bays of Switzerland, who died in 1879; and St. Josephine Vannini, the Italian co-founder of the Daughters of St. Camillus, who died in 1911.
“Three of them were religious women,” the pope noted in his homily. “They show us that the consecrated life is a journey of love at the existential peripheries of the world.”
“St. Marguerite Bays, on the other hand, was a seamstress; she speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving,” he said.
Rather than describing St. John Henry Newman, Pope Francis quoted from him to illustrate the meaning of the holiness of daily life: “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not … The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretense … with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man.”
And, referencing St. John Henry Newman’s famous hymn, Lead, Kindly Light, the pope prayed that all Christians would be “’kindly lights’ amid the encircling gloom.”
‘The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not … The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretense … with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man’
Tens of thousands of people filled a sunny St. Peter’s Square for the canonisation ceremony and Mass. Among them were Britain’s Prince Charles; Italian president, Sergio Mattarella; Brazilian vice-president, Hamilton Martins Mourao; a member of Switzerland’s federal council and Shri Muraleedharan, India’s minister of state for External.
Holy Family Sister Manjula, whose ministry is “counselling and visiting houses and helping solve problems. We help all families—non-Christian, non-Catholic, anyone,” said that St. Thresia’s focus and that of her congregation today, is assisting families.
Gregory Hillis, a professor of theology at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, the United States was represented his university and himself at the ceremony.
“Newman is important to me theologically and for my spirituality,” he said, adding, “ I like his conversion story” of how, as an Anglican priest, he became a Catholic at the age of 44. “I became a Catholic 13 years ago, and Newman was an important guide. He converted, but maintained his friendships, his respect and love for the tradition that he left.”
Hillis said, “I’m an ecumenical convert as well. I’m tired of converts who hate the tradition they left.”
An official delegation of Anglican bishops and priests also attended the Mass, and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England, recorded a message for the occasion.
“His legacy is far broader than one Church or two Churches,” the archbishop said. “It is a global legacy, a legacy of hope and truth, of the search for God, of devotion to being part of the people of God.”
St. John Henry Cardinal Newman role in founding the Oxford Movement in the Church of England, a push to rediscover the early Christian writers and to recover the Catholic roots of Anglicanism, “had a fundamental, lasting, beneficial and important influence on Anglicanism,” Archbishop Welby said.